A couple of weeks ago I saw a recipe for Sherried Tomato Soup online, and I hadn’t been able to get it out of my head. I had attempted tomato soup several times in the past, but it just never tasted as good as the kind you get in restaurants. Hey, I figured, maybe adding sherry is the kick that tomato soup needs. I looked up the recipe and it really didn’t call for much: canned tomatoes, tomato juice, sugar, salt, chicken bouillon, butter, onion, sherry, cream, black pepper, and basil. The only things I needed to buy were sherry, tomato juice, and basil, as well as some celery I was going to throw in with the onion. Okay, I thought, I’ll run to the Price Choice and pick up those four things, then come back, make some soup, and have a leisurely evening watching Desperate Housewives and Brothers & Sisters.
Here is a timeline of what followed:
3:30 p.m. - Decide to make soup. Put on sweats (braving the 35-40 degree air outside), go get my car from the 5th floor, drive around the 5 loops of the parking garage, beep myself out of the parking garage.
3:35 p.m. - Arrive at Price Choice. Price Choice is actually Price Choice IGA Food Market, which makes me feel comforted, because it reminds me of Dissmore’s, the local IGA grocery store in Pullman.
3:45 p.m. – Get a basket (rather than a cart) to deter myself from going on an impulse buying spree. Fail miserably. Somehow wind up with tomato juice, celery, bananas, four avocados (59¢!!! how could I not?), mushrooms, milk, cornmeal, a can of creamed corn, two cans of green beans (despite the fact that I just bought a bag of frozen green beans at Target last week and haven’t opened it), chocolate chip cookie dough, sugar-free ginger ale, an extra can of diced tomatoes, a can of Campbell’s cream of chicken soup, and two cans of Campbell’s vegetable beef soup (because they didn’t have minestrone). I swear, I should not be allowed to go grocery shopping without supervision. I always want to buy things “just in case” I might need them to cook with in the future – hence the cream of chicken, the mushrooms, and the cornmeal. This strange tendency is probably rooted in some deep psychological issue, but I think secretly I’m just lazy, and the idea of needing to go to the store for just one ingredient really chafes my britches! So I stock up well in advance.
4:00 p.m. – Can’t find any sherry, cooking or otherwise, in either the wine aisle or the condiments aisle.
4:05 p.m. – Ask the woman behind the Lottery counter if it is legal in Florida to sell fortified wines and liquors in the grocery store. The woman only speaks Spanish, so she waves at a guy somewhere behind, who confirms that it is illegal to sell fortified wines and liquors in grocery stores in Florida. I get in line with my groceries.
4:15 p.m. – Pay for my groceries. Ignore the Hispanic guys ogling me in my sweats. The twenty-something, pretty, bored, Spanish-speaking cashier mumbles in two-word sentences that I need to bag my own groceries, to speed things up. (“I ring. You bag. Is line.”) I don’t even bother to ask her about the sherry business.
4:25 p.m. – Get everything loaded into my car. Remember there is a liquor store in the gourmet grocery store on the floor below my office, and decide how to get there. I could park in the valet loops for five minutes, run in, buy some sherry, or go home, park, and walk over. I decided not to risk parking in the valet loop, in case they were busy, so I drive home, beep myself back in, go up seven parking garage loops this time because the spots have filled up since I left, and beep myself into the elevator bay. Contemplate going up to my apartment on the 12th floor to drop off my groceries, or down to the lobby to walk next door. Laziness wins.
4:30 p.m. – Stuff two bags of groceries in my purse (I love you, O Big Purse), and carry the rest downstairs and over to the Grand. The liquor store in the Grand is just a tiny little circle off of the main grocery store, with an attendant who rings you up. This time, the attendant is a sixty-plus woman who, you guessed it, doesn’t speak english. “Sherry?” she asks. “No…no sherry.” I call my dad. “Dad, is there another word for sherry? Like, cooking sherry?” I say. “Umm, no?” my dad snorts. “Like what?” “I don’t know,” I say, “Like how Bacardi means rum, even though it’s the brand. This woman has never heard of sherry…“ “Well, I guess it’s not a very good liquor store,” my dad says helpfully. “Are you sure you don’t have any sherry?” I ask the woman again. She is shaking her head before I’m even done speaking. “No sherry. No sherry.”
4:45 p.m. – after checking the labels of all of the bottles in the liquor store, I have yet to find sherry. I’m starting to feel like Frasier Crane, here. Why is this so hard? I have a sneaking suspicion that the woman doesn’t understand me, and that’s why she keeps shaking her head. She just doesn’t want to deal with me. I go into the main part of the grocery store, and ask the woman behind the deli counter (she wasn’t doing anything) if she spoke English. “Oh, yes,” she says, in a heavy Spanish accent, and asks me what I need. I tell her I am looking for cooking sherry, and she quickly prattles something in Spanish to a guy about my age behind the counter with her. He gestures for me to come with him. I trail after him while he marches up to the grey-haired liquor store woman and proceeds to carry on a conversation in Spanish with her. Mid-way through, he says to me, “Cooking sherry, right?” I nod and say, “Right…like, to put in soups…and stuff.” I’m so eloquent. He continues his conversation with the woman. The conversation moves (physically, since I really have no idea what they’re talking about) to the cooking section of the store. “It would be with condiments,” he says, “and she says we don’t ever carry it. You can try a liquor store, though, I think there is one on Biscayne and 21st, or maybe it’s 31st.” I thank him and turn to go. “Ah,” says the woman, “Here you go.” And she hands me a jar of marachino cherries.
5:15 p.m. - Finally walk in the front door of my apartment. I put the cookie dough in the fridge, and look up “liquor laws Florida” on Google. Here is what I find: “Supermarkets and other licensed business establishments may sell beer, low-alcohol liquors, and wine. Liquor must be sold in dedicated liquor stores which may be in a separate part of a grocery or a drug store. Miami-Dade County liquor stores may operate 24 hours a day.” Huh. So much for not being able to buy wine and low-alcohol liquors in the grocery store. Grrr. I look up the liquor store. There is one on Bisayne and 51st, and one on 65th. No way, José. I sigh. I guess Publix is my last option. (Sidenote: I realize that most people at this point would have just made the soup without the darn sherry, but I had been dreaming about tomato soup all week, and darned if it wasn’t going to be the best tomato soup possible.)
5:30 p.m. - I go get my car, go around 7 loops, beep myself out, and drive to Publix. I’m not in the mood to pay the toll to go to the beach (also, I have no cash) so I attempted to find the downtown Publix. I know the general area, I have been there several times with other people, and just last week my friend Sam told me how to get there. (“Okay, you go like you’re going to my house, then you cuuuurve around by the Ross, then you take a left over the bridge, then…” I stopped listening. Unfortunately.) It can’t be too difficult, I reason. Wrong again.
5:45 p.m. – Get lost as soon as I cross the bridge into Brickell. Called the store to get the hours. They’re open till 11. Sah-weeet. Call Sam to ask what street the parking garage is on. Sam doesn’t answer. Call Newman. No response. Call the store again to get the street that their parking garage is located on. “Huh?” the lady says, “Hang on a minute…mumble mumble…umm, I think…on 2nd Avenue, right?” Okay. I hate parking garages. They are a pain in my ass. First of all, each block has a parking garage entrance on all four sides, or sometimes only two, and the store you are going to only validates one garage entrance, and it’s not always the entrance on the same side as the store you’re going to. Last time I went to the post office, I parked in a parking garage, wound up in the Wachovia building two blocks away, and ended up paying ten bucks for a twenty-minute stop. Another time, I paid ten dollars to go to the bank, where the teller told me, surprised, “But why didn’t you park in the Sun Trust garage? We validate.” Uhh..because this is Bank of America? And you don’t have a direct telephone line to this branch that would give me information like that? And there aren’t any signs? Ugh.
6:00 p.m. – Wind up driving in circles. Parked at a stoplight, the only person on the street other than me is a drunk guy wearing basketball shorts over what can only be described as women’s cotton pedal pushers. He strides across the intersection and slings his now-empty bottle onto the ground near my car. I lock my doors. Get to 15th Street, think I’ve gone too far, turn around, call 411 again, get the address (13-something), make a left on 13th. Drive until I see the sparkly lights of Mary Brickell Village. Call my dad again out of frustration. Just as he is getting on his laptop, I spy Publix. Finally. “Thanks, Dad,” I say and hang up on him. Drive into the Publix (which is a super-narrow lane followed by a super-tight corner followed by super-tight spaces). Buy sherry (right on the wine rack right when you walk in the store). Pay and validate my parking. Try to exit parking garage, but end up going around in a circle twice because apparently the Exit and More Parking signs got switched. Drive home, getting every red light on the way.
6:20 p.m. – Finally get home. Collapse on couch. Too tired to make soup.
6:30 p.m. – Hunger pangs make me change my mind.
7:30 p.m. – Stuffed, and with lunch (and dinner) for the week, feeling much, much, better. And making a vow to at the very least buy myself a Spanish-English dictionary for the next time I go to the grocery store.